Exclusive: Iraq still using bogus bomb detectors – and thousands pay the price

More than 4,500 people have been killed since the conviction of UK businessman, James McCormick, in April

Bogus bomb detectors are still being used in Iraq five months after a British businessman who supplied the devices was found guilty of fraud.

More than 4,500 people are estimated to have been killed in Iraq – 979 of them in September alone – since James McCormick, a former policeman, was convicted at the Old Bailey in April. His trial heard that the devices he was  selling, called ADE-651, were based on novelty golf-ball finders and had no scientific means of detecting explosives.

The Iraqi government promised after the trial that the fake detectors would be phased out. But they were still in use at checkpoints two days ago when 55 people were killed by bombs packed into cars in Baghdad. The responsibility for the attacks was claimed by an al-Qa’ida-linked group, which began its current campaign of violence around five months ago.

The sale of the devices to Iraq was alleged to have been aided by the payment of huge bribes to local officials. McCormick is said to have made a total of $75m (£46.2m) from the Iraqi government, charging $40,000 for each unit, which cost $20 to produce.

Major General Jihad al-Jabiri, the head of the Interior Ministry’s directorate for combat explosives, and two other officials were jailed for corruption over the deal and 15 others were alleged to have been involved.

After McCormick was handed a 10-year sentence, Iraq’s deputy Interior Minister Adnan Asadi announced that the detectors would be replaced. He did not stipulate how and when, but it was later confirmed by the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, that sniffer dogs would be brought in to search for explosive devices.

So far only two provinces in the south, Dhi Qar and Wasit – neither of which is on the front line of the recent violence – have invested in canine units. Around 20 dogs were bought to guard the capital’s Green Zone, but the country’s parliamentary security committee discovered they had not actually been trained to detect explosives. The “dog option” has also led to allegations of corruption. Even before the detector scandal, MPs claimed in July 2011 that there were 27 cases of financial malpractice in the purchase of dogs for security work.

James McCormick was found guilty of fraud in April (Getty) James McCormick was found guilty of fraud in April (Getty)  

Some Iraqi officials complain that contradictory statements from the highest echelons of government had undermined efforts to ban the fake devices. In May this year, Mr Maliki was still insisting that some of the ADE 651s worked. He said: “The best devices in the world do not detect explosives more than 60 per cent of the time. Results we obtained indicate that these devices detect from 20 to 50 per cent. So, some of the devices were real and were detecting explosives.”

Before his conviction, General al-Jabiri had declared: “I know more about bombs than the Americans do, in fact I know more about bombs than anyone else in the world.”

Others, however, had stressed the dangers after McCormick’s sentence. Aqil al-Turaihi, inspector-general at the Interior Ministry, said: “I feel furious that this gang of Jim McCormick and the Iraqis working with him killed my people by creating false security and selling such a useless device.”

“There was corruption associated with this contract and we referred to this and submitted our report to the Minister of the Interior.”

Jawad al-Shihaili, an MP in the parliamentary integrity committee, claimed that the warnings had been ignored due to pressure from vested interests.

A bogus bomb detector, and its case, seized by police in the UK A bogus bomb detector, and its case, seized by police in the UK  

Monday’s bombing, a sectarian attack aimed at the Shia community, is said to have been carried out by the al-Qa’ida-affilitated Islamic State of Iraq. Another branch of the organisation, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is now the most extreme jihadi group among the rebels fighting across the border against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

A journalist who has worked for The Independent in Iraq in the past, described his surprise at seeing the fake detectors each time he went back to Baghdad. Hassan Ali (not his full name, which has been withheld for security reasons) said from Baghdad: “Some of the junior ranks actually believe they work; more senior ones say it is better than nothing and acts as a deterrent... Some say that the first batch they got worked, the other ones that came later did not. Of course it’s all nonsense.”

One of the explosions on Monday took place in Baghdad’s Sadr City. Hakim Mohammed Jaffar, a schoolteacher, witnessed the blast. “I saw five dead bodies,” he said. “Some children had been hurt as well. There was a lot of blood, it was a very bad to see.

“I went through one checkpoint on the way in [to Sadr City] where they had the detectors just before the bombing. They look like wands and they are supposed to bend when they spot a bomb. But they are useless, everyone one knows that.”

Another of the blasts took place in the Kazhamiyah district. Hassan Abu Ridha, whose neighbour was injured, said: “My cousin is a policeman and he says they know these things do not work, but they have no orders to stop using them and they have been given nothing else. The British should have stopped them being sold in the first place, but now it is fault of our government that people are dying.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
films
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game